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    Thursday, January 21, 2016

    The Smark Henry RAW Report (1/18/16): Ready To Rumble

    The 2016 Royal Rumble is less than a week away and it’s easy to get hyped by the fact that the WWE World Heavyweight Championship is up for grabs in this year’s Royal Rumble Match.

    By all means, you should get excited, and I won’t take that away from you. But part of me also wishes that WWE did a better job of building up to the Royal Rumble without having to wait for big names like Brock Lesnar to come in and move mountains.

    I suggested on last week’s SGP Podcast that Creative take a page out of old SmackDown vs. RAW stories and have wrestlers battle each other for the better Royal Rumble Match entry number. It gives every match from top to bottom—at least among the Rumble participants—some importance, at the expense of killing the surprise factor in the Royal Rumble Match itself. Ultimately, having wrestlers draw numbers beforehand and making their entry numbers public knowledge is detrimental because it takes away the element of surprise for each entry.

    So for the purposes of this year’s Rumble buildup, let’s just take a look at Roman Reigns and how WWE could have scripted the stacking of the deck against him much better. I already gave my thoughts on last week’s One Vs. All and how that fell flat. This week, Reigns had back-and-forth promos with Chris Jericho and Paul Heyman, and they spent a lot of their mic time getting nothing accomplished—a rarity for someone as excellent on the mic as Heyman.

    Roman was officially given the #1 entry in this year’s Rumble Match courtesy of Vince and Stephanie McMahon. That segment was pretty boring, too, as they didn’t make the most out of the shenanigan of having to draw “lucky number one”. The way they did it felt too contrived, even though giving Reigns the #1 entry was the most obvious and logical booking decision to make. The story could have been better told had Vince already made Roman #1 from the moment he announced the stipulation surrounding this year’s Royal Rumble Match.

    From there, Vince could have given Roman the opportunity to improve his position by taking on heels like the League of Nations or Kevin Owens. If Roman wins, he gets to take whatever number his opponent had heading into the Rumble. If Roman loses, he gets to keep the #1. The Authority could have stacked the deck against Roman in any way possible such that Roman always ended up losing the match. The only problem would have been avoiding making Roman look like a jabroni by losing on RAW for three straight weeks. But a disqualification loss wouldn’t have hurt him, especially if his buddy Dean Ambrose or the Usos would have come in to even the odds against the League of Nations at some point.

    Sure, this scenario clearly borrows from the old Smackdown Vs. RAW stories. But “recycling” in wrestling happens all the time. Plus, in a situation like this where there are theoretically 30 possible winners at the end of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match, you’d want to involve as many of the talent as possible in the buildup. This would have been way better than seeing random 8-man tag team matches like Neville, R-Truth, Mark Henry, and Titus O’Neil vs. The Cosmic Wasteland and Tyler Breeze.

    In any case, the Royal Rumble is happening on Sunday, and Roman Reigns is about to have the match that cements his legend as the new face of the WWE.

    Creepy and the Beast

    What this week’s clusterfuck of an ending gave us is possibly the best treat smarks could have asked for besides Brock Lesnar vs. Kevin Owens at WrestleMania. We saw the Wyatt Family dispatch Roman Reigns and then proceed to take out Brock Lesnar himself. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan both got to nail the Beast with their finishers, and Bray Wyatt himself punctuated it with a Sister Abigail. Look for Lesnar and Wyatt to have a meaningful interaction in this year’s Rumble, one that hopefully sets them up on a showdown at the Show of Shows.

    This is a match that very few saw coming, and yet there’s bound to be such an interesting interplay between these characters. You have Brock Lesnar, who is the epitome of legitimacy in the cartoon world of pro wrestling. And then there’s Bray Wyatt—a throwback to the early days of the Undertaker and Kane—a cult leader with supernatural powers that defy logic. The clash of dynamics between these two characters is just as enticing to think about as the mic work that’s bound to happen between Paul Heyman and Wyatt himself.

    As for the match itself, I’d want Bray Wyatt to win if and only if Vince is finally going to go all in on this guy. You don’t build Brock Lesnar up to have such a monster run, beating Taker’s streak, and having a beastly WWE World Heavyweight Championship reign if you’re going to just let him lose to a guy who won’t benefit off the rub. If they’re going with Brock vs. Bray, Bray has to win and then have his own monster run. It’s time go all in on Bray Wyatt.

    I just hope Brock will have enough dates to work between the Rumble and WrestleMania to make this a compelling story. The fact that he’s doing more SmackDown shows during the Road to WrestleMania is a good sign. After all, at some point, it will get repetitive to just watch Paul Heyman say prayers in Latin to counter the spookiness of the Wyatt Family.

    Bexceeding Bexpectations

    Becky Lynch has thrived in her role as the underdog babyface and has given the Divas Division something it has been missing in a long time—a protagonist who is actually worth rooting for. I’ve spent enough time in this space telling you about my undying love for Becky Lynch and the work she’s done, but let me just praise the writing behind this week’s chapter in the Becky-Charlotte saga.

    First off, it’s nice to see Becky finally string together a bunch of wins in a row to make her look like a credible challenger against Charlotte. And then, having Becky get on the mic and attack Ric Flair’s manhood (and pride) to goad him into allowing Charlotte to defend her title against Becky at the Royal Rumble was a simple yet effective way to advance the story. It made Becky look really smart for knowing which buttons to push to provoke Ric Flair—who’s become the brains of the Flair operation—and at the same time allowed Charlotte to keep looking like the arrogant, entitled bitch that she’s portrayed very well.

    Quick Hitters

    • Seeing the New Day hold a funeral for Francesca was just all kinds of gold. It’s a shame that the New Day is stuck feuding with the Usos again, because that story’s been worn down to the ground, and we could totally use a new story for the Tag Team Champions.

    • Why are Nattie and Paige friends again? Are we suddenly forgetting that these two had a feud and that Paige took Nattie out of action? Paki-explain.

    • I also want to know why the Big Show is suddenly a babyface again. We’ve all lost count of how many times he’s switched alignments over the years, but this one just has no explanation whatsoever. And why were the Social Outcasts heel this week? Didn’t Ryback come out and save their asses from the Wyatts last week? At this point, they’ve also become too endearing to be heels.

    • Somebody give the Dudley Boyz something meaningful to do. They’re starting to look bored already. I can’t blame them.

    • The Alberto Del Rio-Kalisto feud is becoming one of the more underrated stories on WWE TV. It’s very basic: David vs. Goliath over a midcard championship. And yet, both guys know how to play their roles to a tee. Not that I’m happy about Sin Cara and Cena’s injuries, but they could very well have been the best things to happen to Kalisto’s career right now.


    This week’s RAW left me wanting a lot more out of how they booked the other characters not named Roman Reigns and Kalisto. Hell, even Chris Jericho looked out of place, and it was an ironic bit of self-awareness that made it clear that Jericho’s definitely stuck in 1999. It’s a shame because there were a couple of good matches in the tag team match between ADR and Sheamus against Dean Ambrose and Kalisto and the Reigns-Rusev matchup.

    But when you have three hours to fill and you meander about your business without setting things up properly, you end up with a clusterfuck, which is what the Royal Rumble Match is in the first place. Sadly, you can’t thrive on clusterfucks alone. This week’s episode gets a D.

    Photos from WWE.


    Stan Sy (@_StanSyis the Editor at Large of Smark Henry, and is also a radio DJ, an events host, a freelance writer, and one of the hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He enjoys watching WWE, NXT, Lucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. Every now and then, he dresses up in fancy suits to book matches as PWR's longest-tenured General Manager to date.
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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry RAW Report (1/18/16): Ready To Rumble Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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